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EN BANC

[A.C. No. 7330. June 14, 2016.]

JUDGE GREGORIO D. PANTANOSAS, JR. , complainant, vs. ATTY. ELLY


L. PAMATONG , respondent.

DECISION

CAGUIOA , J : p

The practice of law is a privilege burdened with conditions and is reserved only
for those who meet the twin standards of legal pro ciency and morality. 1 It is so
delicately imbued with public interest that it is both a power and a duty of this Court to
control and regulate it in order to protect and promote the public welfare. 2 In this
regard, this Court will not hesitate to hold its of cers accountable for misconduct and
the violation of the duty to respect the courts.
The facts culled from the records follow.
During the time period material to this case, complainant Judge Gregorio D.
Pantanosas, Jr. (Pantanosas) was the presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court of
Cagayan de Oro City, Branch 20 (RTC). 3 Respondent Atty. Elly L. Pamatong (Pamatong)
was the counsel of plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 2006-176, entitled Nick Otero, et al. v.
Sheriff of the MTCC Branch 3, Cagayan de Oro City, et al . for injunction with damages,
which was then pending before the RTC. 4
On September 8, 2006, during the hearing of an application for the issuance of a
temporary restraining order (TRO) in Civil Case No. 2006-176, respondent Pamatong
was allegedly asked by complainant Pantanosas to remove his copia (a hat worn by
Muslims) in open court. 5 Respondent Pamatong requested to be exempted allegedly
due to religious grounds and embarrassment towards his "bald pate." 6 Complainant
Pantanosas thereafter obliged with a caveat that at the next hearing, he would no longer
tolerate the wearing of the copia inside the courtroom. 7
Three (3) days after, or on September 11, 2006, respondent Pamatong led an
Extremely Urgent Motion/Demand for Inhibition or Recusal in Civil Case No. 2006-176
(Motion for Inhibition), which contained the following remarks:
6. Finally, in my thirty (30) years of law practice, I never encountered
a Judge who appears to be as corrupt as you are, thereby giving me the
impression that you are a disgrace to the Judicial System of this land who does
not deserved (sic) to be a member of the Philippine Bar at all. 8
On the same day, complainant Pantanosas issued an Order refuting all
allegations of abusive language and corruption and denying the Motion for Inhibition for
lack of basis while ordering respondent Pamatong to show cause why he should not be
cited in contempt of court. 9 In compliance with the directive of the RTC, respondent
Pamatong led his Answer to the Order to Show Cause and Motion for
Reconsideration. 10
On September 18, 2006, complainant Pantanosas led a Complaint for
Disbarment dated September 15, 2006 (Disbarment Complaint) 11 before this Court
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against respondent Pamatong on the following grounds: (i) violation of Canon 8 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) 12 for the language employed by respondent
Pamatong in the Motion for Inhibition, and (ii) violation of Canons 1 13 and 11 14 of the
CPR for engaging in dishonest and deceitful conduct by supposedly causing the
publication of an alleged bribe in a local newspaper and maliciously imputing motives
to complainant Pantanosas, thereby casting dishonor to and distrust in the judicial
system. 15
On October 25, 2006, this Court issued a Resolution, requiring respondent
Pamatong to le his comment to the Disbarment Complaint within ten (10) days from
receipt of notice thereof. 16
On December 28, 2006, respondent Pamatong timely led his Comment on the
Complaint for Disbarment and Counter-Complaint (Comment). 17 Following the
September 8, 2006 incident, respondent Pamatong alleged in his Comment that he filed
a complaint against complainant Pantanosas with the Of ce of the Court Administrator
(OCA) on September 12, 2006, which was docketed as A.M. OCA IPI No. 07-2541-RTJ.
18 Notably, said complaint with the OCA was eventually dismissed through a Resolution
dated February 28, 2007 issued by this Court. 19 Respondent Pamatong also alleged in
his Comment that he caused the ling of two (2) separate complaints with two (2)
separate of ces, namely the Commission on Human Rights 20 and the Of ce of the
Ombudsman. 21 IAETDc

In the main, respondent Pamatong averred in his Comment that the actual
courtroom demeanor of complainant Pantanosas during the September 8, 2006
hearing was overbearing, arrogant and derogatory, while also maintaining the truth of
the bribery allegations launched against complainant Pantanosas. 22 By way of counter-
complaint, respondent Pamatong claimed that the alleged discriminatory conduct of
complainant Pantanosas violated Canons 1, 23 2, 24 and 3 25 of the Code of Judicial
Conduct. Respondent Pamatong alleged that in a meeting with complainant
Pantanosas in his chambers two (2) days before the September 8, 2006 hearing, the
latter allegedly solicited from him One Million Pesos (P1,000,000.00) in exchange for
the issuance of a TRO in Civil Case No. 2006-176. 26 Respondent Pamatong countered
that during the TRO hearing on September 8, 2006, he was initially asked by the
complainant-judge to approach the bench in order to inquire about the alleged bribe. 27
Upon disclosing that he was unable to secure the money, respondent Pamatong
claimed that he was subjected to anti-Islamic comments and humiliating conduct by
complainant Pantanosas. 28
On February 5, 2007, this Court issued a Resolution referring the Disbarment
Complaint to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
recommendation or decision. 29 The case was initially set for mandatory conference on
July 23, 2007. 30 After due proceedings, the mandatory conference was terminated and
both parties were required to le their respective position papers by the investigating
commissioner, Commissioner Manuel M. Maramba. 31 Accordingly, both parties led
their position papers dated January 5, 2009 32 and January 16, 2009, 33 respectively.
On April 19, 2010, this Court issued a Resolution, requiring the IBP to inform the
Court of the status of the case. 34 In compliance with this Court's directive, the IBP,
through Commissioner Albert R. Sordan (Sordan), led its Compliance dated June 25,
2 0 1 0 , 35 informing this Court that the case was among those re-assigned to
Commissioner Sordan for investigation, report and recommendation, which was duly
noted by this Court in its Resolution dated September 8, 2010. 36
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Thus, on August 6, 2010, Commissioner Sordan rendered a Report and
Recommendation, the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE , it is recommended that for violation of the lawyer's oath
and breach of ethics of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of
Professional Responsibility, Atty. Elly V. Pamatong be SUSPENDED from
the practice of law for ONE (1) YEAR , with a STERN WARNING that a
repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more severely. 37
On December 15, 2012, in a Resolution of even date, the IBP Board of Governors
resolved to adopt and approve, with modi cation the Report and Recommendation
dated August 6, 2010:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously
ADOPTED and APPROVED, with modi cation , the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled case,
herein made part of this Resolution as Annex "A", and nding the
recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable
laws and rules, and considering Respondent's violation of the Lawyer's Oath
and breach of ethics of the legal profession, Atty. Elly V. Pamatong is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) years with a stern
Warning that a repetition of a similar act shall be dealt with more severely. 38
Respondent Pamatong then filed a Motion for Reconsideration and Complaint vs.
Commissioner Albert R. Sordan and the IBP Board of Governors dated March 14, 2013,
39 which was subsequently denied through a Resolution dated March 22, 2014. 40

Thereafter, in a Resolution dated January 13, 2016, this Court noted the
transmittal of the documents pertaining to the case, as well as the notices of resolution
dated December 15, 2012 and March 22, 2014, respectively. 41 In view of the penalty
imposed, the case was referred to this Court En Banc.
For our resolution therefore is the liability of respondent Pamatong under the
CPR and for violation of his oath as a member of the bar.
After a judicious examination of the records and the submissions of the parties,
we nd no cogent reason to disagree with the ndings of the IBP in its Resolution
dated December 15, 2012. 42 However, we modify the penalty accordingly for the
reasons to be discussed below.
It cannot be overemphasized that it is the sworn duty of a lawyer to maintain
towards the Courts a respectful attitude, "not for the sake of the temporary incumbent
of the judicial of ce, but for the maintenance of its supreme importance." 43 It is
precisely for this reason that the Lawyer's Oath enjoins all members of the bar to
conduct themselves with good delity towards the courts 44 in order not to erode the
faith and trust of the public in the judiciary.
As succinctly held in our previous ruling in Pobre v. Defensor-Santiago:
A lawyer is an of cer of the courts; he is, "like the court itself, an
instrument or agency to advance the ends of justice." His duty is to uphold
the dignity and authority of the courts to which he owes delity, "not
to promote distrust in the administration of justice." Faith in the courts, a
lawyer should seek to preserve. For, to undermine the judicial edi ce "is
disastrous to the continuity of government and to the attainment of the liberties
of the people." Thus has it been said of a lawyer that "[a]s an of cer of the
court, it is his sworn and moral duty to help build and not destroy
unnecessarily that high esteem and regard towards the courts so
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essential to the proper administration of justice . 45 (Emphasis supplied)
It is with this exacting standard that we measure respondent Pamatong, and nd
him wanting. DcHSEa

It is not disputed that the Motion for Inhibition led by respondent Pamatong
contained blatant accusations of corruption against complainant Pantanosas, and then
some. As counsel for the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 2006-176, it was incumbent upon
respondent Pamatong to observe and maintain respect towards the judicial of ce then
being occupied by complainant Pantanosas. 46 Instead of insisting on similar conduct
from his clients, respondent Pamatong was the rst to cast doubt on the impartiality
and independence of the court. Worth repeating below are the invectives directed by
respondent Pamatong against complainant Pantanosas:
6. Finally, in my thirty (30) years of law practice, I never
encountered a Judge who appears to be as corrupt as you are , thereby
giving me the impression that you are a disgrace to the Judicial System of
this land who does not deserved (sic) to be a member of the Philippine Bar at
all. 47 (Emphasis supplied)
That the slanderous remarks cited above were inserted in no less than a public
record, i.e., Motion for Inhibition, makes matters even worse. Even granting that the
bribery charges were true, such personal attacks against the person of complainant
Pantanosas should have been reserved for a different forum and certainly not included
in a motion led before a court of law. To be sure, a lawyer is obliged to abstain from
scandalous, offensive or menacing language before the courts. 48 As a supposed
of cer of the court, such behavior exhibited by respondent Pamatong only serves to
betray his utter lack of reverence towards the courts, which promotes nothing but the
degradation of the administration of justice.
The records also disclose that a news article detailing the events that
precipitated the bribery charge against complainant Pantanosas was published on
September 15, 2006 with the participation of respondent Pamatong. At the outset, it
bears stressing that lawyers should refrain from attributing to a judge motives not
supported by the record or have no materiality to the case. 49
Here, respondent Pamatong had no reason to divulge his grievances before the
public as he had already lodged a complaint against complainant Pantanosas with the
OCA on September 12, 2006. 50 Accordingly, owing to the baseless and impulsive
charges led by respondent Pamatong, the OCA disposed of the complaint using the
following language:
A.M. OCA IPI No. 07-2541-RTJ (Rev. Sultan Elly Velez Lao
Pamatong, Esq. vs. Judge Gregorio D. Pantanosas, Jr., Presiding
Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 20, Cagayan de Oro City) The
Court NOTES the Report dated 12 January 2007 of the Of ce of the Court
Administrator on the veri ed complaint dated 11 September 2006 . . . nding
the complaint devoid of merit because complainant did not present
any evidence, other than his bare allegation, to prove the charge of
bribery .
Upon the recommendation of the Of ce of the Court Administrator, the
Court resolves to DISMISS the instant administrative complaint against Judge
Gregorio D. Pantanosas, Jr. for lack of merit. 51 (Emphasis supplied)
Moreover, such action by respondent Pamatong of resorting to the press was
highly irresponsible and is contrary to his duty to submit grievances against judges to
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the proper authorities only. 52 Clearly, respondent Pamatong was motivated solely by
improper motives in connection with the TRO application in Civil Case No. 2006-176.
As regards the recommended penalty of the IBP of suspension from the practice
of law for three (3) years, we note that, in similar situations, we had imposed a
suspension of less than three (3) years.
In Judge Lacurom v. Atty. Jacoba , which involved similar facts to the case at
bench, this Court suspended the respondent from the practice of law for two (2) years
for using offensive language directed towards the complainant judge in a motion led
before the court:
No doubt, the language contained in the 30 July 2001 motion
greatly exceeded the vigor required of Jacoba to defend ably his
client's cause. We recall his use of the following words and phrases:
abhorrent nullity, legal monstrosity, horrendous mistake, horrible error,
boner, and an insult to the judiciary and an anachronism in the
judicial process . Even Velasco-Jacoba acknowledged that the words created
"a cacophonic picture of total and utter disrespect."
Respondents nonetheless try to exculpate themselves by saying that
every remark in the 30 July 2001 motion was warranted. We disagree.
Well-recognized is the right of a lawyer, both as an of cer of the court
and as a citizen, to criticize in properly respectful terms and through legitimate
channels the acts of courts and judges. However, even the most hardened judge
would be scarred by the scurrilous attack made by the 30 July 2001 motion on
Judge Lacurom's Resolution. On its face, the Resolution presented the facts
correctly and decided the case according to supporting law and jurisprudence.
Though a lawyer's language may be forceful and emphatic, it should always be
digni ed and respectful, be tting the dignity of the legal profession. The use
of unnecessary language is proscribed if we are to promote high
esteem in the courts and trust in judicial administration .
In maintaining the respect due to the courts, a lawyer is not
merely enjoined to use digni ed language but also to pursue the
client's cause through fair and honest means . 53 (Emphasis supplied) SCaITA

Similarly, in Judge Baculi v. Atty. Battung , this Court meted the penalty of
suspension for one (1) year for the violation of Rule 11.03 of the CPR by the respondent
therein due to his in-court demeanor during a motion hearing:
We agree with the IBP's nding that the respondent violated
Rule 11.03, Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Atty.
Battung disrespected Judge Baculi by shouting at him inside the
courtroom during court proceedings in the presence of litigants and
their counsels, and court personnel . The respondent even came back to
harass Judge Baculi. This behavior, in front of many witnesses, cannot be
allowed. We note that the respondent continued to threaten Judge
Baculi and acted in a manner that clearly showed disrespect for his
position even after the latter had cited him for contempt . In fact, after
initially leaving the court, the respondent returned to the courtroom and
disrupted the ongoing proceedings. These actions were not only against
the person, the position and the stature of Judge Baculi, but against
the court as well whose proceedings were openly and agrantly
disrupted, and brought to disrepute by the respondent .
Litigants and counsels, particularly the latter because of their
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position and avowed duty to the courts, cannot be allowed to publicly
ridicule, demean and disrespect a judge, and the court that he
represents . . . . 54 (Emphasis supplied)
Meanwhile, in Re: Suspension of Atty. Rogelio Z. Bagabuyo , 55 this Court imposed
the penalty of suspension for one (1) year for the respondent's act of resorting to the
press instead of availing himself only of judicial remedies in airing out his grievances:
Lawyers are licensed of cers of the courts who are empowered to
appear, prosecute and defend; and upon whom peculiar duties, responsibilities
and liabilities are devolved by law as a consequence. Membership in the bar
imposes upon them certain obligations. Canon 11 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility mandates a lawyer to "observe and maintain the respect due to
the courts and to judicial of cers and [he] should insist on similar conduct by
others." Rule 11.05 of Canon 11 states that a lawyer "shall submit grievances
against a judge to the proper authorities only."
Respondent violated Rule 11.05 of Canon 11 when he
admittedly caused the holding of a press conference where he made
statements against the Order dated November 12, 2002 allowing the
accused in Crim. Case No. 5144 to be released on bail .
Respondent also violated Canon 11 when he indirectly stated
that Judge Tan was displaying judicial arrogance in the article
entitled, Senior prosecutor lambasts Surigao judge for allowing
murder suspect to bail out, which appeared in the August 18, 2003
issue of the Mindanao Gold Star Daily . Respondent's statements in the
article, which were made while Crim. Case No. 5144 was still pending in court,
also violated Rule 13.02 of Canon 13, which states that "a lawyer shall not make
public statements in the media regarding a pending case tending to arouse
public opinion for or against a party." (Emphasis supplied)
From the foregoing, we therefore deem it proper to reduce the period of
suspension from three (3) years, as recommended, to two (2) years only.
In closing, we nd it be tting to reiterate that lawyers have the right, both as an
of cer of the court and as a citizen, to criticize in properly respectful terms and through
legitimate channels the acts of courts and judges. 56 However, closely linked to such
rule is the cardinal condition that criticisms, no matter how truthful, shall not spill over
the walls of decency and propriety. 57 To that end, the duty of a lawyer to his client's
success is wholly subordinate to the administration of justice. 58
True, lawyers must always remain vigilant against unscrupulous of cers of the
law. However, the puri cation of our justice system from venal elements must not
come at the expense of decency, and worse, the discrediting of the very system that it
seeks to protect.
WHEREFORE , we SUSPEND Atty. Elly L. Pamatong from the practice of law for
two (2) years effective upon nality of this Decision. We STERNLY WARN the
respondent that a repetition of the same or similar infraction shall merit a more severe
sanction.
SO ORDERED.
Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-de Castro, Bersamin, Perez, Mendoza,
Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe and Leonen, JJ., concur.
Brion * and Del Castillo, * JJ., are on official leave.
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Peralta, * J., took no part: on official leave.
Jardeleza, ** J., took no part on official business.
Footnotes
* On official leave.
** On official business.
1. See Sps. Garcia v. Bala, 512 Phil. 486 (2005).

2. Petition for Leave to Resume Practice of Law, Benjamin M. Dacanay , 565 Phil. 165, 168
(2007).
3. Rollo, p. 1.

4. Id. at 2.
5. Id. at 2-3.
6. Id. at 3.
7. Id.

8. Id. at 8.
9. Id. at 10-12.
10. Id. at 37-39.
11. Id. at 1-6.
12. Rule 8.01 A lawyer shall not, in his professional dealings, use language which is
abusive, offensive or otherwise improper.
13. Rule 1.01 A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct.
14. Rule 11.04 A lawyer shall not attribute to a judge motives not supported by the record or
have no materiality to the case.
15. Rollo, p. 13.
16. Id. at 14.

17. Id. at 15-21.


18. Id. at 27-31, Solicitation of One-Million-Peso Bribe Money, Violation of Rule 137 of the
Rules of Court & Gross Violation of Canon 1, Canon 2, & Canon 3 of the Code of
Judicial Conduct and Judicial Assault Against Freedom of Religion dated September
11, 2006.
19. Id. at 224.
20. Id. at 24-26, Complaint for Violation of Human Rights and Related Offenses Pursuant to
the Applicable Provisions of the Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights dated September 14, 2006.
21. Id. at 32-36, Rev. Sultan Elly Velez Lao Pamatong, Esquire's Sworn Statement on (A) the
Illegal Demolition of Two Parcels of Land Covered by Case No. 4 OCT. 1310 and (B)
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Case No. 2006-176 Pending with the RTC of Cagayan De Oro City Wherein Judge
Gregorio D. Pantanosas Asked for a One-Million-Peso Bribe Money dated September
11, 2006.
22. Id. at 17-18.
23. Rule 1.01 A judge should be the embodiment of competence, integrity and
independence.
24. Rule 2.01 A judge should so behave at all times as to promote public con dence in the
integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
25. Rule 3.12 A judge should take no part in a proceeding where the judge's impartiality
might reasonably be questioned. . . .
26. Rollo, p. 29.
27. Id. at 28.
28. Id. at 29.
29. Id. at 76.

30. Id. at 147.


31. Id. at 187.
32. Id. at 188-194.
33. Id. at 216-223.

34. Id. at 228.


35. Id. at 230-231.
36. Id. at 232.
37. Id. at 86.
38. Id. at 78.

39. Id. at 89-99.


40. Id. at 237.
41. Id. at 250.
42. Id. at 78.
43. Pobre v. Defensor-Santiago, 613 Phil. 352, 363 (2009).

44. Lawyer's Oath.


45. Pobre v. Defensor-Santiago, supra note 43, at 364, citing Surigao Mineral Reservation
Board v. Cloribel, 142 Phil. 1, 15-16 (1970).
46. Canon 11, Code of Professional Responsibility.
47. Rollo, p. 8.
48. Rules 8.01 & 11.03, Code of Professional Responsibility.

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49. Rule 11.04, Code of Professional Responsibility.
50. Rollo, pp. 27-31, Solicitation of One-Million-Peso Bribe Money, Violation of Rule 137 of the
Rules of Court & Gross Violation of Canon 1, Canon 2, & Canon 3 of the Code of
Judicial Conduct and Judicial Assault Against Freedom of Religion dated September
11, 2006.

51. Id. at 224.


52. Rule 11.05, Code of Professional Responsibility.
53. Judge Lacurom v. Atty. Jacoba, 519 Phil. 195, 209-210 (2006).
54. Judge Baculi v. Atty. Battung, 674 Phil. 1, 8 (2011).
55. Re: Suspension of Atty. Rogelio Z. Bagabuyo, Former Senior State Prosecutor , 561 Phil.
325, 339-340 (2007).
56. Habawel v. Court of Tax Appeals, 672 Phil. 582, 595 (2011).

57. Id. at 596.


58. Areola v. Mendoza, 724 Phil. 155, 164 (2014).

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